Water feature ideas: 15 ways to add a decorative touch to your garden

These water feature ideas will bring the wow factor to your backyard as well as a soothing sound

water feature ideas from moda furnishings
(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

If you're on the lookout for gorgeous garden water feature ideas, you're in the right place. From simple basin styles, eye-catching water walls, sculptural designs or simply a pond, you can be sure there's a look that's got your name on it.

There are plenty of reasons why water features are a fantastic addition to your garden design ideas. First of all, they add a multitude of sensory benefits. There's the stunning sight and cooling touch, as well as the soothing sound of trickling water, which can help to muffle traffic noise. Second, water features are great for wildlife and will attract beneficial insects and birds to your garden, to give it an extra dose of life and color. 

Finally, they're an instant way to bring a decorative focal point to a yard. And, as Jonny Brierley, CEO of Moda Furnishings says, 'adding decorative pieces to your garden is just as important as adding artwork to your living space.'

Water feature ideas: 15 stunning designs

We've gathered together some of our favorite water feature ideas below. There's something for every style of plot, so you're bound to find one that suits your space.

1. Add a modern backdrop to your dining zone

outdoor dining set-up with water wall in background

A water wall will elevate the ambience when entertaining outdoors

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright/Future)

An outdoor dining area can be instantly lifted with a water wall backdrop. Popular in contemporary plots, these features add a sculptural accent and soothing movement, plus they shimmer beautifully as they capture the light.

You can opt for bespoke, integrated versions as part of your garden wall ideas, but for a slightly more affordable option, go for an off-the-peg panel which can be positioned against your boundary. Or, you could use it as a stunning way to divide different zones in your space.

We love how this design has been paired with a rustic brick wall and berry-toned blooms and tableware for a well-balanced scene.

2. Make a statement with black dye and pale paving

water feature in Bounce Back garden from Samuel Moore at Consilium Hortus

A modern water feature in the 'Lower Barn Farm: The Bounce Back' garden from Samuel Moore at Consilium Hortus, at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2021

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

This striking set-up is part of a sleek outdoor living, relaxing, and entertaining space designed by Consilium Hortus

The minimal hardscaping strikes a beautiful contrast against the organic forms of hot-hued planting. And note how the rill, dyed an inky black, adds an additional sense of drama when juxtaposed against the pale paving and feature wall. 

Not only is it a sophisticated focal point, it's an integral feature of the plot's layout: what's not shown in this image is the way it extends to cleverly separate a covered seating area from a dining zone.

3. Go for a textural sphere

water feature at alitex stand at hampton court 2021

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

If you're looking to add some extra magic to your flowerbeds, then statement water feature ideas could be the way forward.

The design above has a textural leaf pattern, which creates a pleasing visual effect as the water tumbles across it and into the pool below. The water is then recycled, returning to the top of the structure in a continuous soothing cycle.

Lavender will add to the sensory appeal, offering a relaxing fragrance to the zone. The purple hue and silvery foliage prettily complement the zinc metal of the central structure, too. You can learn how to grow lavender with our useful guide.

4. Try a playful waterfall design

water feature by moda furnishings

(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

Stainless-steel water feature ideas like this are sure to catch everyone's attention and be a talking point amongst guests. And the sculptural nature will offer a sense of play to any border or lawn.

What's more, in this design, the pump can be adjusted to change the effect of the water's flow. You could soften the look by placing larger rocks and planting around its edges, or keep the surroundings minimal for an unmistakably modern vibe.

5. Add a wave

waves water feature from moda furnishings on lawn

(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

Add vertical interest to your patio or courtyard with a waved water feature like this one. The gentle curve will only enhance the serene effect. And, it doesn't take up much floorspace either, so is perfect if you're looking for small garden ideas.

Pair with modern modular furniture and paving or decking in tones of gray for a pared-down yet certainly chic scene.

6. Embrace a whimsical style with a bird bath

bird bath in traditional garden

Welcome feathered friends with a feature like this

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright/Future)

Bird baths are a lovely way to welcome in wildlife, and can make a gorgeous focal point too. This stone design has been given center stage to great effect, with cobbled paving, neatly-clipped hedge borders and billowing lavender all adding to the romantic and timeless look. You could also position a bench or bistro set nearby for a quiet place to sit and take in the view.

Of course, there are plenty of more modern designs if a traditional look isn't your thing – our bird bath ideas gallery has something for everyone.

7. Light it up

The Stone Sphere water feature from Lights4Fun

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

You can't beat the combination of light and water to create a focal point in the garden. Many water feature designs now have integral LEDs, and some even come with changing cycles you can control with a remote. 

This plug-in design has a warm white LED that gives the water a magical glow and can be displayed outdoors all year round. Pair it with other outdoor lighting ideas, such as softly-lit lanterns or twinkling festoons, for an enchanting nighttime atmosphere.

8. Add some zen

The Scupper water bowl from Solus Decor

(Image credit: Solus Decor)

A gentle cascade of water will add tranquillity to your outdoor space, creating a soothing backdrop that's perfect for unwinding at the end of the day. For this reason, a water feature is a fabulous addition if you're considering Zen garden ideas for your backyard.

This look combines a cool reflective pool in smooth, hand cast concrete with a polished metal scupper that channels a flow of falling water. The concrete and metal combine to create interesting reflections as light plays over their surfaces.

9. Choose a classic look

vintage style water feature from the worm that turned

(Image credit: The Worm That Turned)

If your plot is a wild and romantic space rather than a clipped and contemporary courtyard garden, choose a water feature that adds to this effect. 

A water tank style looks great and is good for attracting wildlife too. Go for something that looks like it has been sourced from an architectural salvage yard, like this distressed verdigris-effect design, which even comes with the date 1776 etched onto it.

Instead of metal it's made of lightweight fibreglass, making it simple to install or move. But, you would have to get up pretty close to the antique-style detailing to realize it's not the real thing. 

10. Draw the eye with a sculptural piece

tiered water feature

This striking water feature is from Dobbies

(Image credit: Dobbies)

A symmetrical, 12-tiered design such as this one will enchant any onlooker. And it lights up, too. Finished with a Corten steel effect, it offers an antique, old-world vibe – we think it would look fantastic surrounded by architectural foliage.

An off-the-shelf design like this is easy to set up. All you need to do is connect it to a power supply to add a whole new dimension to a forgotten corner of the garden.

11. Try a Corten steel bowl

Adezz Corten water bowl from Garden House Design

(Image credit: Garden House Design)

If you like to keep things simple for a low-maintenance garden, choose a shallow bowl-style water feature that looks good and, even better, requires no input from you. Garden accessories in Corten steel are a real look at the moment and the finish gets even better as it weathers in. 

This pared-down design above works well in both modern and country gardens and is available in six different sizes, so there's one to suit every space.

12. Introduce a quirky touch

Fish water feature in The Travel Department China Garden, show garden at Bloom 2010 designed by Frazer McDonogh

This fun style is featured in the 'The Travel Department China Garden' at Bloom 2010, designed by Frazer McDonogh

(Image credit: Ros Drinkwater/Alamy Stock Photo)

Maybe you want to boost the fun factor of your backyard. Well, there are plenty of water feature ideas that will do just that. From lizards, lions or – as seen above – fish, to statues of people pouring water from never-emptying vessels, novel designs like this will instantly add character and charm to a plot.

Some can be attached to a wall, whilst others can be added to a pond, offering an extra dimension. Go with something which brings you joy, and it will become a well-loved factor of your garden for many years to come.

13. Go for a chic-yet-minimal water table

modern water feature table from Garden House Design

(Image credit: Garden House Design)

A low-key water table like this one is great for adding a bit more pizzazz to your patio. And as it's minimal in design, it will complement all kinds of contemporary surroundings. You can find more modern garden ideas in our guide.

If a water feature is positioned near an area where you relax, it's important to choose one with sound effects that you like. Do you find the trickle of water created by a particular style soothing? Or might it eventually get on your nerves? Many companies now include a video of the sound effects on their website so you can listen in and don't even have to leave your sofa to make your choice.

14. Choose an elegant pond

pond with stepping stone path

A pond makes the perfect addition to this tranquil space

(Image credit: David Giles/Future)

A traditional garden pond creates a focal point in your garden that will be loved by all. And the local wildlife will appreciate it too. The water will mirror the movement of branches and clouds to add a reflective element that is calming, while birds will like to splash in it. 

A round shape adds a classic detail to your garden design that always looks smart. Square and rectangular designs can be fabulous too – take this design for instance, which is elevated even further with a stepping stone pathway across the surface.

Looking for more garden pond ideas? There's plenty to get you inspired in our feature.

15. Recreate a Mediterranean vibe with a classical look

stone water fountain in garden

Go for a timeless design

(Image credit: Mim Friday/Alamy Stock Photo)

Don't have plans to visit the Med any time soon? You can do the next best thing and bring the vibe to your garden. Add the soothing sounds of an Italian courtyard with a classically inspired fountain – it'll make the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon on one of the best sun loungers

Choose an easy-to-install, low-maintenance option in cast stone to create an elegant focal point. Surround with more Mediterranean garden ideas and then pour yourself a nice glass of chilled fizz – you'll instantly feel like you're on holiday.

Where should you position a water feature?

In terms of water feature placement, Jonny Brierley, CEO of Moda Furnishings, recommends 'placing them by the side of a walkway or even in the center of your garden as this creates a focal point.' Take the gorgeous design below for example. The simple circular pool is placed centerstage and informs the surrounding layout, from the curve of built-in benches to the sweeping borders beyond.

Of course, it really depends on the size and structure of your feature and the sort of look you're going for though. A small, sculptural design tucked amongst billowing planting can create an enchanting point of interest as part of your flowerbed ideas. On the other hand, a sleek modern look might work better with less around it.

However, there are some other things to bear in mind. As mentioned, you'll want to take the sound on board – you might like having it close to your seating space, or you might find that positioning it further away is more relaxing. If it's powered by an electrical pump, it'll need to be near an outdoor plug. And think twice before placing a water feature beneath a tree, otherwise you'll have to spend time fishing out leaves.

The cancer research uk pledge to progress garden by tom simpson for hampton court 2019

The 'Cancer Research UK Pledge to Progress Garden' by Tom Simpson for RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019

(Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

What do you need for a small water feature?

Most self-contained water feature styles use recycled water, so you won't need to hook them up to any plumbing. All you have to do is top up the water occasionally.

In terms of power, some designs, or at least their pump, will need to be plugged into an outdoor electrical socket that has been safely installed. So, bear this in mind when planning where to put your feature, as mentioned above. You can also find solar-powered models which are great if you're looking to be more sustainable (and they're also low-maintenance). Why not add some of the best solar lights to your yard, too?

Every water feature is different, but the basic principles of how they work are the same. They all have some sort of pond or reservoir to collect water (even if it's hidden underground) and then, if there's a fountain involved, they'll be a pump and tubing to circulate it through the design, too. In fact, it's not too difficult to make one yourself if you're feeling creative and have some DIY skills up your sleeve.

Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.